Healthcare has always been a soft target for cyber attackers. Due to the nature of the services that deal with a lot of data, cybercriminals have always targeted the healthcare industries to extort information and money. Let’s understand the cybersecurity challenges in the healthcare industry.
1. Ransomware and Malware
Malware injections and ransomware attacks are quite common in the healthcare industry. Since the healthcare industry is emergency-care intensive, the attackers consider hospitals to be the source of a faster payout.
Regardless of that fact, healthcare industries are more prone to hide a ransomware attack than any other industry due to the nature of the information that they hold. Which makes it challenging for the authorities to develop policies and manuals around ransomware attacks.
Ransomware attacks are referred to as hijacking, outcasting, and preventing access to users to extract money. In most cases, the authorized health personnel are shown a screen that guides the organization to pay the ransom money and get back their system.
Although the hijackers promise to return the data without harming the patients or the organization, it mostly isn’t kept. If you are subjected to a ransomware attack, it’s recommended by the authorities that you don’t pay the ransom and report the case. But for healthcare industries, due to the health act (HIPAA), it gets more complicated.
Healthcare is such a sector that requires uninterrupted services. There is no such thing called a delay in service in the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks disrupt the fundamentals to go beyond monetary benefits.
A woman needing urgent care in Germany was redirected to a different hospital due to the hospital dealing with a ransomware attack. The woman died after the incident. Following the incident, the authorities have notified the companies to patch the Citrix network gateway for the CVE-2019-19871 vulnerability; for it has been an entry point for the attackers.
2. Data Breach
Data breaches are a bit different from ransomware attacks. Although both of them target protected health information (PHI), the objective of a data breach is to expose or sell the information to third parties through dark web channels and make a profit out of it.
In 2021, 686 data breach incidents and 44,993,618 records were stolen or exposed from the healthcare sector alone. As a healthcare professional or hospital, your risks include:
Financial loss is the immediate consequence of a data breach. From customer compensation to legal penalties, the losses that you’d have to face will far outgrow the cost of tightening up organization-wide cybersecurity.
The minimum HIPAA fine for willful violation can clock to $50,000. But for each consecutive violation, the fines can be increased or even be subjected to criminal proceedings.
Damage on Your Reputation
While financial losses are paid and done with, the reputational damage is almost unrepairable and lasts long. Reputational damage, in severe cases, can make a business shut its operations down.
In case of a data breach in the healthcare sector, the patients are exposed to the public and malicious marketers that make use of these data to impersonate or threaten the close ones to extract more information. Plotting a phishing attack.
Customers, being aware of the value of their data, will just divert to your competitors who are more inclined to take security more seriously. You would also have a hard time attracting new customers and investors; following the events of a data breach.
Data breaches can be prevented or delayed by using a residential proxy network that acts as a guarded bridge between you and the attacker. The proxy servers divert your connections through different servers before reaching the target and vice versa. The attackers trying to access your networks will keep on losing their way into the network of routers that the proxy servers provide.
Downtime is the last nail for any healthcare industry. Following a data breach, the investigation and the legal proceedings can continue for the longest time. Your operations are expected to be halted for that time being. Your customers who were reliant on you, would soon find other services that are similar to or better than yours and pivot to being their loyal customers.
HIPAA requires you to comply with their manual and ensure that you’ve taken all the necessary actions needed to prevent attackers from exploiting the PHI. Not only the authorities, but the individuals whose data have been exposed will also sue you for negligence and compensation.
3. DDoS Attacks
DDoS attacks in healthcare are mostly used as a cover to initiate more nefarious attacks like ransomware and data breach. But, that doesn’t mean that a stand-alone DDoS attack should be neglected to keep your cybersecurity team engaged in more notorious attacks.
Most distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks flood the IP addresses of the victim by technical or non-technical means to keep authentic queries from passing through.
Tightening cybersecurity isn’t the only solution required to prevent DDoS attacks. As for the non-technical means, the attackers pose as hacktivists to spread misinformation in the public forums to build a potential campaign against the organizations to flood their networks for a long period.
DDoS attacks are particularly effective for healthcare sectors because they target the servers that are used to treat patients. As reliant as the healthcare industry is on the internet to deploy, retain, and access data, a DDoS attack can break down the operational aspects.
4. Phishing Attacks
During the pandemic, many healthcare industries except hospitals and private practitioners were forced to go remote. As the industry wasn’t as prepared as the tech industry to do the switch, several technical and psychological vulnerabilities were exposed.
Phishing attacks are dependent on individuals downloading an executable into their system. Which is then used by the attacker to gain control of the victim’s system and in turn–the servers.
Spear phishing is mainly executed through emails by impersonating co-workers and senior executives. For that, social engineering strategies are employed. The attacker carefully curated content that excites the victims or compels them to open a link that contains malware that can be used to breach the servers internally. Spear phishing mainly targets an organization and not individual employees.
Whale phishing targets senior executives irrespective of their organization. Whale phishing requires more precision and time to execute. But once it finds its way in, maximum control over the server is gained.
Employee training and common sense are the most viable methods to prevent phishing attacks.
5. Software Vulnerabilities
Outdated software is one of the most challenging cybersecurity aspects of the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry doesn’t find it necessary to update their software very frequently. Thus, very little concern is expensed towards the maintenance and security of the centralized pieces of software.
Once a vulnerability is exposed, this outdated software can be used as an entry point for further attacks.
6. Insider Attacks
Whistleblowing and insider attacks are quite prominent in the healthcare industry. As these sensitive reports garner a lot of attention, malicious stealing and spreading of these news pose cybersecurity challenges to organizations. Insider attacks can also be used to lay the founding stone for phishing and DDoS attacks.
The Bottom Line
Malware, ransomware, and data breach attacks are the most prevalent and dangerous for healthcare industries. In recent times, phishing attacks and insider attacks are also being executed to harm organizations.
This post has been sponsored by LinkDoctor
Digital Health Buzz! aims to be the destination of choice when it comes to what’s happening in the digital health world. We are not about news and views, but informative articles and thoughts to apply in your business.